What Is A Premise?
‘Premise’ comes from the Latin ‘premissa’, meaning to ‘set before’. It is also known as a central concept, controlling idea or even ‘seed of the story’. Whatever you call it, it is one of the foundations of writing craft for both screenplays and novels.
A story is only ever as good as its premise, which is why we must work hard on ours. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t in good premises is really important. Otherwise we could end up with a draft built on a half-baked idea.
So if you want to create a powerful premise, check out these 5 ways you can test yours …
1) Start with a ‘What if …?’ Question
Call into question any well-known fact. Ask yourself what if truth in an opposite point of view? You will get the ground for a fascinating storyline.
Modern thinking is evolution, that humans descend from apes. But what if there is a planet where people have remained wild and primitive, and the apes have learned to think?
That’s how Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet of the Apes was created. Nine films, several TV-series, an animated series, and a series of computer games have been created based on this novel. The simple reversal of the well-known concept produced a fruitful idea.
2) Use Opposites
Take a person of any profession and put them in another field … the most inappropriate!
Such “transition” is evident in the movie Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock. She is a female FBI agent, a tomboy who hates everything feminine. In the movie, she has to enter a beauty contest. Oops!
In this plot, there is lots of room for jokes, character arc and plot development. The movie also raises a few important questions in a playful manner.
3) Reanimate ancient myths
Back to the Future is, at first glance, just a fun science-fiction film about time travelling. The young man goes to the past and then tries to return to his time.
But let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here.
In the past, our protagonist Marty McFly meets his own parents. He begins to teach his shy dad how to date his mom. But eventually, the mother starts to fall in love with her future son. Yikes!
This story is a re-creation of a myth about Oedipus, about a love triangle between mother, father, and son. At the same time, the plot works with a popular idea of how a child can help parents and improve their lives.
4) Use contradictions
Why do absolutely all detectives have funny features? Poirot has his moustache and expansive taste. Sherlock Holmes is a cocaine addict, but in addition, he is not interested in anything except his craft. Columbo has his mac and ‘There is just one more thing …’!
The detective is a bit of a superhuman. He – or she! – must be learned, clever, pragmatic. It is much more interesting when such people also have funny, eccentric or strange features too.
However, what if such a character finds out something incredible through a series of coincidences, or hiding in plain sight all along? You will get an incredible plot, like Unlucky with Pierre Richard, or Chinatown by Robert Towne.
5) Show us a villain
The more nightmarish the better. An example is Dexter. He is a serial killer and a police officer at the same time. But it’s okay, because he only kills fellow maniacs.
We need to gain new life experience. We can try whatever we want, but we cannot become murderers or criminals without consequences. This is why it is so interesting for us to observe their stories on screen. People want to explore forbidden life experiences, and storytelling provides this opportunity. MORE: What Marvel Can Teach Us About Writing Powerful Villains
BIO: Angela D Johnson is a professional author who can provide a lab report help for students. She is also a skilled content writer who writes articles on topics like HR, business, education, self-growth, and many others.